Toronto Blue Jays all-time top ten pitching performances by Game Score (GSc) is brought to you by Jays From the Couch
Having looked into this statistic for fun, I was compelled to find the best game scores achieved in the history of the Blue Jays. Toronto has had its share of pitching stars over the years, such as Cy Young Award winners, Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens, Pat Hentgen who many would expect to make such a top ten list. The interesting aspect of the research was finding those couple of pitchers, who we would never suspect, and their very unique games that ended up making the list.
I would be remiss if I did not tell readers that I decided to ignore the nine inning limit in this Blue Jays specific search. The reason for doing so was to show the best overall pitching performances by game score. While it is true a few of these scores would be lower if not for some extra inning games, however, I feel it would be doing a disservice to those performances by choosing to ignore them. I mean, who pitches nine plus innings anymore?
What is the Game Score Statistic?
Game Score (GSc) is a statistic created by Bill James to help determine how good a starting pitcher was in any given start. By his own definition in his 1988 Baseball Abstract, when James introduced the stat, he called it “A kind of garbage stat that I present not because it helps us understand anything in particular but because it’s fun to play around with.”
How Game Score is calculated:
- Start with 50 point
- Add 1 point for each out recorded (or 3 per inning)
- Add 2 points for each inning completed past the fourth
- Add 1 point for each strikeout
- Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
- Subtract 4 points for each earned run
- Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
- Subtract 1 point for each walk
According to his system the absolute highest score any pitcher can achieve is 114 in a nine inning game. This would be a no hit, no walk, 27 strikeout complete game performance. Suffice to say, no one pitcher has reached those heights, in the modern era. The highest recorded (nine inning) Game Score in MLB history belongs to the Chicago Cubs young hurler, Kerry Wood. Back in 1998 he tossed a 1-hit, 0 walk, 20 strikeout masterpiece, for a game score of 105. While the highest recorded modern era game score belongs to Vern Law who completed an eighteen inning game in 1955 for a total score of 118. (woah!)
#10 – Dave Stieb (Score 92)
This game was played at Exhibition Stadium against the California Angels (now Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) on a Thursday evening. At the time the Blue Jays were in seventh place in the American League East, while the Angels were merely two games back in the West, and eventually ended up winning the division with a 93-69 record.
Stieb put together an amazing eleven inning outing, surrendering only three hits and one earned run. Surprisingly enough his effort wasn’t enough to earn him the win with the game going twelve innings. The Blue Jays were able to rally in the bottom of the inning for claim a victory.
Stieb’s counterpart on the mound Ken Forsch also tossed 9 1/3 innings surrendering one earned run, but only accumulated a game score of 65.
|Roy Lee Jackson, W (7-8)||1||1||3.38||3||0.146|
#9 – Jimmy Key (Score 92)
Oddly enough this game was also played on a Thursday evening at Exhibition Stadium. The Blue Jays were in first place in the American League East with a 35-16 record, and eventually won their first division as a franchise with a 99-62 record. Their opponents, long time division rivals Detroit Tigers were in third place with a 27-23 record, and ended the season in same place with an overall record of 84-77.
The crafty lefty put together an outstanding ten inning, two hit, no run, performance to accumulate his game score of 92. Once again, like Stieb, he was not around to figure in the decision. The Blue Jays did eventually win this game in the bottom of the twelfth inning due to a walk-off, two run home run from catcher Buck Martinez.
Key’s opponent Dan Petry also put together a strong performance, going ten shutout innings while accumulating a game score of 82.
|Jim Acker, W (2-0)||1||1||1||2.43||5||0.143|
#8 – Dave Stieb (Score 92)
Many older Blue Jays fans will remember this game like it happened yesterday. The word that comes to mind to describe it is, FINALLY! Stieb had previously flirted with perfect games and no-hitters several times in past seasons only to be thwarted late in each game, twice with two outs in the ninth, in 1988 alone. Not on this day, however, this day belonged to Stieb.
This game was played in Cleveland at Cleveland Municipal Stadium (The Mistake by the Lake) on a Sunday afternoon. The Blue Jays were in second place at the time with a record of 70-64, and they ended up in the same place at the end of the season with an overall record of 86-76. Their opponents, the Cleveland Indians were 59-74 and mired in sixth place, but rallied late in the season to finish in fourth place with a 77-85 record.
Stieb battled some control issues on this day by walking four, but he definitely still over matched the Indians hitters. He relied on his wicked slider to strike out nine, and complete the first no-hitter in Blue Jays franchise history.
Indians starting pitcher Bud Black put together a strong start of seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with five strikeouts. His final game score was 63
|Dave Stieb, W (17-5)||9||4||9||2.91||29||92||0.554|
You can also watch a video put together by MLB Network to commemorate Stieb’s feat, here.
#7 – Ted Lilly (Score 92)
This is the first game of the list that was completely unexpected. Lilly was having himself a decent season, however the Blue Jays were not. When the Jays welcomed the then second place, and eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox to the SkyDome on this Monday night, Toronto was long removed from any playoff aspirations at 53-72. They would end the season last in the American League East with an overall record of 67-94. Boston would end the season second in the division, and clinching the wild card birth with a record of 98-64.
The little lefty was in control of this game from the start, allowing only three hits while striking out thirteen in a complete game masterpiece. All the scoring the Blue Jays would need took place in the first inning when lead-off hitter Reed Johnson belted a home run. Toronto would go on to add one more in the first, and one in the third to complete all the scoring this game would see.
Lilly’s counterpart Pedro Martinez would surrender three runs on four hits over seven innings while striking out ten. He accumulated a game score of 64.
|Ted Lilly, W (9-8)||9||3||2||13||3.66||33||92|
#6 – Roy Halladay (Score 93)
Surprisingly, this is the first and only time Halladay shows up on the top town list. This game was played on a Sunday afternoon at the Rogers Centre, in a quick and efficient 2:08. At the time of the game the Blue Jays were sitting in third place at 27-23, and unfortunately would end the season in the same place with an 80-82 record. The Twins were in third place in the American League Central sitting at 29-20, and would ultimately finish the season at 83-79 in the same position in the standings.
Halladay was in complete control of the this game from the get go. He faced three batters over the minimum, tossing a complete game on ninety-nine pitches while striking out ten. This was a pitching duel through four innings as both teams were held off the scoreboard.
His counterpart Joe Mays held his own over seven strong innings, surrendering two runs on ten hits, and recorded a game score of 51.
|Roy Halladay, W (8-2)||9||2||10||2.54||30||93||0.564|
#5 – Jesse Jefferson (Score 95)
This game is by far the biggest surprise found on this list. Jefferson, was an expansion draft pick by the Blue Jays in 1976, and he spent a total of nine seasons in the league from 1973-81. During that time the Virginia native compiled a career record of 39-81 with a 4.81 ERA. All of which makes this game even more remarkable.
It was played on Friday evening and contained two very well thrown games on both sides. Jefferson was able to complete eleven full innings, allowing only four hits, four walks, and ten strikeouts.
Toronto, who was still relatively new to the league were 17-12 at the time and in second place in the division, but ultimately ended up dead last with a 67-95 record. This game was without a doubt one of only a few highlights during the 1980 season. Oakland was a first place team at the time at 18-14, and ended the season in second place in the American League West with an 83-79 record.
His opponent for the night Mike Norris completed 10 2/3 innings surrendering the only run of the game with two out in the bottom of the eleventh on a base hit by third baseman Roy Howell. Norris complied a respectable game score of 82.
|Jesse Jefferson, W (2-1)||11||4||4||10||3.86||41||95||0.991|
#4 – Pat Hentgen (Score 95)
This game was a Tuesday afternoon game played in the then named SkyDome against the Kansas City Royals. Toronto was fresh off their second of back-to-back World Series victories, and the excitement over the team was still in the air, as can be seen by the 48,173 in attendance. Yes, 48, 000 at mid-week afternoon game. Crazy, right?
Toronto was 15-11 at the time but would end the disappointing strike shortened season in third place with a 55-60 record. Unfortunately this would be the first of 22 consecutive seasons before the Blue Jays would see the playoffs again. Kansas City 11-12 at the time would end up third in the American League Central with a respectable 64-51 overall record.
Hentgen and K.C. starter Kevin Appier were locked in an epic pitching duel on this afternoon. Toronto’s starter tossed a complete game, two hit, fourteen strikeout master piece. While his counterpart went eight full innings, surrendering one run, with ten strikeouts for a game score of 81.
|Pat Hentgen, W (4-2)||9||2||2||14||4.46||31||95||0.799|
#3 – Roger Clemens (Score 97)
Remember that time when the Blue Jays signed perennial all-star Roger Clemens? It was stunning wasn’t it? Whatever their reasons were for doing so, it sure produced something to look forward to every five days. Clemens was much watch TV during his two seasons with Toronto, winning the first of his back-to-back Cy Young awards in 1997.
The game took place on a Sunday, while the Blue Jays were at home and towards the end of another disappointing season. The Blue Jays were 67-74 mired in fourth place at the time, and finished the season last in the division, with a record of 76-86. Their opponents The Texas Rangers were not much better at 67-76, and finished third in the American League West at 77-85.
Toronto jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead after the first inning and Clemens took over the immediately. Allowing two hits, zero walk and striking out fourteen over a complete nine innings.
Texas sent Darren Oliver – who would end up with Toronto many years later – who completed seven innings while surrendering seven hit and four runs, with a game score of 53.
|Roger Clemens, W (21-5)||9||2||14||1.85||31||97||0.411|
#2 – Rogers Clemens (Score 99)
Not surprisingly Clemens ends up on this list again. After all, when you win your second Cy Young in the last two seasons, chances are you’re bound to have some remarkable games.
This games once again took place at the SkyDome, this time on a Tuesday night against the lowly Kansas City Royals. Toronto was 67-65 and in the midst of its first winning season since their world series in 1993, and on their way to a record of 88-74. Unfortunately they still finished 26 games back of a New York Yankees team that won 104 games in 1998. Kansas was 60-72 at this time, and once again finished well out of the division race to a third place finish at 72-89.
Much like the previous game on this list Toronto jumped out to a first inning one run lead, and it proved to be enough despite tacking on two more later in the seventh inning. Clemens cruised to a complete game shutout allowing three hits, zero walks, and striking out an amazing eighteen Royals hitters. Sadly, no video could be found of this game.
His opponent on this night Chris Haney produced a quality start of six innings pitched, while allowing three runs. His game score for his game was less than half that of Clemens at 47.
|Roger Clemens, W (16-6)||9||3||18||2.76||30||99||0.572|
#1 – Brandon Morrow (Score 100)
This games is etched into the recent memory of most Blue Jays fans, for a myriad of reasons. Not only was it the best single game performance by game score for a Toronto pitcher in the history of the franchise, it also reminds of the frustration that came with Morrow himself. This was a pitcher who had absolutely electric stuff, and could shut down the best offenses on any given day; however, his inability to stay healthy/consistent provided a lot of angst among fans.
This was another game played at home – this time named the Rogers Centre (boo!) – on a Sunday afternoon against division rivals Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa at the time were 67-44, in second place in the American League East, but would end up winning the division by a single game with a 96-66 record. The Blue Jays were 59-52 and on their way to a winning season with an 85-77 record, but eleven games back in third place.
Morrow was handed his one run lead in the first inning – there’s a theme building here – and that was all he needed for the day. The Jays rode his powerful right arm for a complete game, one hit, seventeen strikeout performance.
His counterpart Andy Sonnanstine completed 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hit with a final game score of 56.
|Brandon Morrow, W (9-6)||9||1||2||17||4.45||31||100||0.751|
Below is a list of remarkable games that came close to making the top ten, but fell short. As you can see Roy Halladay and Dave Stieb each make five appearances in the top twenty-nine (29) games – by game score – in Toronto Blue Jays history. You will find some familiar names on this list, along with some names you may have never heard of, depending how long you’ve been a fan.
*All Stats Provided by Baseball-Reference
**Featured Image Credit: Perry Quan- UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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